Filtering for Value: A Mom’s Eye View of Spending Time and Money on What Matters

Mom win: I just booked the perfect family-friendly getaway, with privacy and space, walking distance to our favorite restaurants, easy access to hiking trails, and all of our must-have amenities. We paid a little extra for environment and atmosphere, but considering this is our family vacation, it’s a value.

I have a similar set of filters I apply when scouting for restaurants. Whether we’re vacationing, staycationing, or just out on a Wednesday, I find value in the places that check the boxes on my wish list and allow me to enjoy precious quality time with my favorite two people. For my money, the restaurants that deliver the best overall value provide:

  1. Fresh and clean ingredients: If I’m not cooking, then I want to feel like I’ve made the right choice, not a detour to an amusement park. Beyond whole foods, I’m looking for a family-friendly menu—whether a dedicated kids’ menu with grilled or baked protein choices and plenty of colorful vegetable side options or simply a restaurant that accommodates kids by offering half portion and half priced versions of their adult menu items. I will pay extra for high quality ingredients and menu items.
  2. Space (and time) for families to unplug and share meaningful moments: our phones are not part of our family meals. Comfortable and clean tables and booths, good lighting, and upbeat, current music in the dining room let us kick back and relax (and clean restrooms ensure we don’t run away screaming). I will pay extra for environment.
  3. A unique experience that children look forward to: Crayons and coloring games are the cost of entry. If you really want to get parents’ attention (and hold a child’s attention) we recommend creating and owning an exclusive brand experience. I will pay extra for an age-appropriate, engaging activity at the table.
  4. Consistency: Build and maintain brand loyalty with friendly and attentive service and a strong and speedy kitchen staff, every time and at every location. I will pay extra for peace of mind.

Most families define value beyond price alone—we want engagement vs distraction, and an atmosphere where we can enjoy our food and each other’s company. And when restaurants provide us with what we value most, we consider that a value worthy of a premium price point.

Meg Ross is a Business Development Director, writer, and mom.

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